Headhunting vs Recruitment

Jul 22, 2021 | Blog

HeadhuntingThe terms ‘headhunting’ and ‘recruitment’ are often used interchangeably. Is there a difference between the two?

Yes, there is!

Let us look at the difference between headhunting and recruitment.

There are a number of differences between the two processes but one can start with the first big difference – a headhunter will approach the finance professional, but the finance professional will likely approach the recruiter.


Active versus passive candidates

Financial headhunters are usually tasked with headhunting individuals in senior management who have a very particular set of skills. It is a difficult process for financial headhunters to find suitable candidates because they are seeking out financial candidates who are not actively job-seeking. These are finance professionals at the top of their game who are happy in their current roles. On the other hand, contingency recruiters recruit mainly active finance professionals, although many do approach passive candidates as well. So if you are job-seeking, you are likely to apply for a role advertised by, or be found by, a recruiter, but a headhunter is not likely to approach someone who is actively on the market.

Headhunting versus contingency recruitment

When the company has a very clear and defined vision of the senior finance professional they wish to appoint, even down to the actual individual they wish to approach for the role, headhunting is a good way to go. If the company is eager to explore what talent is available to them at the level they are recruiting and would like to perhaps meet a number of different people before making a decision, then contingency recruitment is a good option for them.

Commitment to headhunting

A headhunter requires the client to invest in the recruitment process upfront, with fees payable at the start and at certain points throughout the process. This means the client is entirely committed to working with the headhunter to find the right finance professional, but the advantage is that the headhunter is just as committed to the process.

A contingency recruiter does not see a fee until a successful appointment has been made, and the client is not obliged to work with them exclusively. This means that the client is free to use multiple recruiters and they don’t pay a fee until they find the right candidate, but the disadvantage is that the recruiters all have equal reason to feel less committed to the process.


Financial headhunting and contingency recruitment are not the same processes and it is crucial to understand the difference between the two when making a decision for your hiring needs. Keep following us to read more about the headhunting process, and to hear about our headhunting or retained search service offering.

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